In keeping with Syracuse University’s longstanding commitment to serving the interests of veterans and their families, Syracuse University Press, in cooperation with Syracuse University’s D’Aniello Institute for Veterans and Military Families, is accepting manuscripts for consideration for the 2023 Veterans…
Light Work Presents James Henkel: Object Lessons Exhibition
Object Lessons, by North Carolina-based artist James Henkel, runs Oct. 25–Dec. 9 at Light Work in the Robert B. Menschel Media Center at 316 Waverly Ave. In his new exhibition, Henkel looks back over 30 years of image-making, following a conceptual and formal thread that ties his work together and seems to stubbornly insist on resurfacing.
A reception for Henkel and his gallery talk takes place on Thursday, Nov. 4, at 6 p.m. in the Kathleen O. Ellis Gallery. The reception is free and open to the public, with light refreshments.
About the Exhibition
Whatever is discarded, broken and damaged draws James Henkel to it. The objects he collects, assembles, or deconstructs are humble, common and often no more than the scale of the human hand. Both the patina of wear and the handling that was often the source of the object’s destruction are clearly present. He presents pieces of ceramic pots, bowls, bricks, toys, combs and well-worn books in their broken fragments. Completely useless now, they remain a testimony to someone’s life. This is what Henkel elevates by photographing these found objects so directly. Tension abounds in his work between the humble and the monumental, between play and decay, between high and low. The artist cross-references grander ideas from art history, painting, and sculpture, while also pointing back to the simpler but profound experience of photographing an ordinary life.
James Henkel has lived his life around artists and creatives. His wife and daughter are both artists and he is professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota’s Department of Art. In his years as an undergraduate, he discovered the Penland School of Craft in North Carolina. He has remained closely tied to the school and now lives nearby. The potters, weavers, bookbinders, and artisans of Penland have influenced his thinking as he challenges the relationships between art, craft, function, and beauty. Henkel photographs objects as containers of memory. He uses his camera to focus our attention and to share a sense of wonder. Those too invested in hierarchies will miss it. This is what artists do: expose our blind spots and encourage us to see.